What does voice acting involve? Can I start doing voice over work?

I’m a voice coach and singing teacher. The core of my work is about building, improving and fixing issues people have in their voices.

From that point, the primary and highest demanding application of this is for singers and performers using their voice in song. This involves using their voice over the widest range, at the most extreme intensities, often in sub-optimal situations where their performance needs to be dead-on first time.

Other applications of a well-built voice involve acting on stage, on television, voice-over work, stage speaking, professional speaking/voice use, etc. Many of my clients are even school teachers looking to maintain their voice. This is very much a classic example of a professional voice user – it just so happens voice training overlaps very well with their love of singing.

I’ve been getting a lot of interest lately in voice-over work and voice acting. I have had the odd client who goes down this road, but the majority of my client-base falls into the above camp. It seems that many are considering a career-change or even a side-gig in voice acting, so I wanted to pull together some pointers on what it is and what is involved. I will also briefly clarify the difference between a voice over coach and a voice coach like myself.

What is voice acting?

Voice acting is the art of performing voice-overs to present a character or provide information to an audience.

When you watch “Peppa Pig”, “The Simpsons”, or listen to radio shows like “The Archers”, the people providing the voice track for each of the characters are professional voice actors. Their bodies are not seen on-screen, so they are required to provide all the emotional intensity and meaning for the scene purely through using their voices. Voices need to be intelligible and of an appropriate character for the given project.

Projects can be extremely diverse. Radio shows, podcasts, animated films, cartoons, educational videos, pre-recorded corporate training, explanations within software, TV or radio advertisements, jingles, TV/radio segues, etc, all can involve the use of one/multiple voice actors. Because of the diverse range of possible voice acting avenues, you can understand why there is no “one size fits all” definition for what makes a good voice for voice acting. Continue reading “What does voice acting involve? Can I start doing voice over work?”

Five of my Favourite Books on Singing

I lend out my books fairly regularly, and 90% of the time, they find their way back to me. Of the 10% that don’t, very few are ones that matter to me that I have on my shelf.

But I’ve discovered at least two of my favourite books on voice and singing have gone walk-about, hence I’ve re-ordered them. These are number one and two on this list, and are incredibly easy to read, but contain a wealth of knowledge and story-telling from great singers and musicians.

Books 3-5 are reference books that I refer to reasonably often, but are very definitely not “read cover to cover” books. I’d suggest picking these up if you’re especially interested in either the history or physiology of singing.

1. Pavarotti Up-Close
Leone Magiera

Leone Magiera was Pavarotti’s close friend and accompanist for most of Pavarotti’s life. It’s the perfect story interwining actual events, music, singing, Pavarotti’s personal life, and escapades from his teens all the way through to his later years. I truly wish all books were written with this blend of biography and musical experiences. Continue reading “Five of my Favourite Books on Singing”

What happens when you force your way to the higher notes?

Look, we’ve all been there. We all want to sing higher notes, and we notice that if we can get to note X, X+1 seems somewhat achievable if we just force it a little bit more. Just hit it a bit harder. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, it happens.

But this approach is not harmless nor is it zero cost. It’s a very bad habit to get into, let alone an approach to singing that one learns to rely on. In more extreme cases it can cause damage to voices, especially as we are capable of delivering far more air pressure to our vocal folds than they are capable of withstanding.

I was chatting with a client this week about the problem with forcing notes out, especially under the adrenalin of performing live. It is undoubtedly a big and emotionally charged area, so I wanted to cover a few of the aspects of it here. If you find yourself blasting out higher notes, at least in part to try and make sure you make the notes, you should read on.

Let’s lay the framework for the ideal way of extending our range and making it comfortable:

How we acquire range and power

To sing low notes the vocal folds need to contract and shorten, to sing high notes the vocal folds need to stretch and thin. The larynx which houses the vocal folds has an upper half and lower half. These are made to tilt relative to one another (via laryngeal musculature) to achieve the length and corresponding pitch change.

All our pitch control needs to happen at the larynx/vocal fold level, and in a relaxed manner rather than under pressure. However, a common thing I notice is singers “giving it more welly” when performing live, in order to achieve the pitch. Continue reading “What happens when you force your way to the higher notes?”

How to Use Songs as Exercises – “Etudes”

This week I want to talk about how to use songs as exercises. Those of you who have read my prospectus will know that the later stage of building a voice is to sing songs, both in lessons and as long-term goals.

Here’s the challenge

Singing songs without any consideration to the technical demands of those songs will generally exacerbate existing vocal/technical issues. This is why technical assessments and exercises to address technical issues must be dealt with first.

However, once you’ve begun to address your technical issues, we have got to get you stuck into songs. Exercises are just the forerunner to singing songs, not a replacement for them.

We are not going to just put off singing songs until your voice is “ready“. We’ve got to get you and your voice stuck into the very material you want to sing. Through doing so we will integrate your on-going technical development into the songs themselves.

This is the whole point of voice training, for everyone, at all levels of development

Sing songs every day

It’s important that songs form a regular daily part of your vocal development regime. For example, even just 10 minutes of exercises to get your voice warm and co-ordinated, followed by 10 minutes (or as long as you like) of singing songs, can form a very potent protocol to develop your voice.

This is not just from a performance/rendition perspective, but as a form of etude… Continue reading “How to Use Songs as Exercises – “Etudes””

The Colours of the Voice: How and why different registers have their own sound and feel (part 3 of 3)

In part 1, we discussed how the voice is made up of various registers, connected by transition points we call bridges. Each have their own colour, sound and feel. But learning about the idiosyncrasies of the voice is hard without some context to place it in. So let’s consider some other instruments first.

In part 2, we identified how every instrument has it’s own idiosyncrasies. We looked at piano and guitar, and how each has their own rules/ins and outs that need to be learned over a lifetime of playing the instrument.

For part 3, let’s look at how this relates to the voice. Continue reading “The Colours of the Voice: How and why different registers have their own sound and feel (part 3 of 3)”

The Colours of the Voice: How and why different registers have their own sound and feel (part 2 of 3)

In part 1, we discussed how the voice is made up of various registers, connected by transition points we call bridges. Each have their own colour, sound and feel. But learning about the idiosyncrasies of the voice is hard without some context to place it in. So let’s consider some other instruments first.

 

Part 2: Instrument idiosyncrasies

Every instrument has it’s own idiosyncrasies. Things they do well, and things they don’t. There are always quirks that you need to learn to exploit each instrument fully.

EXAMPLE 1: The Piano

Consider the piano. Up high on the piano, one can play a very dense chord with a LOT of notes very close to each other, and it will sound good. But do the same thing down low, it’s a disgusting mess. Why is this? Continue reading “The Colours of the Voice: How and why different registers have their own sound and feel (part 2 of 3)”